Get into the festive spirit at European Christmas markets

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Christmas markets are still the most popular places for people looking to rekindle their love of the festive season, especially when taking trips to historic countries in Europe where the traditions have been observed for centuries. Christmas markets originated in Germany as far back as the middle ages, but today there are many other countries where you can browse seasonal stalls and enjoy all manner of yuletide treats when walking in a winter wonderland.

You can find Christmas markets in many towns and cities in the UK too, but if you’re looking for a truly magical festive shopping experience you should turn your attention to the European mainland. Christmas markets typically open at the start of advent, especially in countries such as Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic where Christmas traditions are followed with great enthusiasm and dedication.

As well as giving you the chance to find unique presents for your friends, family and colleagues, Christmas markets can also be the best places to get in touch with the old spirit of Christmas that often fades after childhood, especially as many are housed in historic town squares under the shadow of a looming Christmas tree, with the sounds of carol singers floating through the frostbitten air. Christmas markets also sell seasonal food and drink to keep you warm while you browse the various stalls, including mulled wine and baked goods.

Picking just one Christmas market to visit is bound to be a challenge with so many attractive options to choose from. Fortunately, many of the markets are open for several weeks, so you’ll have plenty of time to take in a number of Christmas markets during your winter holiday – from big-name markets in Dresden and Nuremberg, which regularly draw around two million visitors each year, to compact and cosy offerings in smaller villages that are no less committed to ensuring attendees have a good time.

Germany may be the first country that comes to mind when thinking of Christmas markets, but you don’t necessarily have to visit the country to see some of Europe’s finest festive markets in action. Brussels Winter Wonderland has established itself as a firm favourite among visitors to Belgium in recent years, with Lille’s Christmas market in France not coming too far behind.

Even the UK frequently features in lists of travellers’ favourite festive markets, particularly with the emergence of the Leeds Christkindlmarkt and Christmas markets in historic Bath and Canterbury keeping Britain competitive.